Tuesday , September 28 2021
Home / In The Magazine / To whom it may concern

To whom it may concern

 

A frank memo to those demanding that we purchase credibility at the price of mutilating of our beliefs

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | A section of the Ugandan talking heads have made a fetish of “credibility”, particularly the sort of “credibility” purchased by denouncing President Yoweri Museveni as a murderous tyrant who has destroyed Uganda. To preserve such “credibility”, opposition leaders like Dr. Kizza Besigye and now Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), take very extreme positions that make it difficult for them to grow their political appeal beyond a significant and loud but, numerically, a minority of opposition activists.

Uganda is, by its sociological and political constitution, a country of diverse social groups – religious, ethnic, ideological etc. None of these groups constitute a majority. In short, ours is a country of minorities. The largest religious denomination is the Roman Catholic Church and constitutes only 39% of the population. But Catholics are not concentrated in one region but are spread across another critical diversity – ethnicity. The largest ethnic group, the Baganda, are only 16.5% of Uganda’s population.

It should therefore be obvious that if any politician wants to command a political majority, they need to build a supra partisan base who appeal is trans-group.  I think this has been Museveni’s greatest strength. He appreciates that you cannot seek any form of purity in a diverse country in Uganda and succeed. He has, therefore, made himself flexible and adaptable. He does not demand purity – whether of ethnic, religious, ideological or policy nature. Instead, he is willing to work with anyone even when they don’t agree on many things. So, he tends to identify a few areas of agreement with a group or an individual and works with them.

For instance, I disagree with Museveni on many things. If I were to list them, I would need a book. But I also agree with him on some things. What has always intrigued me; from the time I was even a young journalist bashing him and his government daily on radio, television and newspapers, is that he never seemed to take this personally. If I wrote an article he disagreed with, whether on facts or on opinion, he would call me on phone or to State House and register his disagreement and give his alternative facts or opinions.

The lesson I learned from him over time is that one can engage Museveni and work with him on the many things on which you agree with him. But this also may mean one moderates or even postpones differences on the many things they disagree with him on. For someone interested in influencing public policy, whether through mass media or private meetings, there is more to be achieved engaging Museveni than in denouncing him. In my engagements with him I have been impressed by how open-minded Museveni is; he is always willing to listen and to take advice; especially when backed by facts and based on sound research.

There is a section of the Ugandan talking heads that thinks that the only reason I can engage Museveni is through exchange of material favours i.e. bribery. What I have learned over time is that such attitude is not a judgment of my character. Rather those who make such claims are projecting their character on me. They are saying if they had the access I have, they would use it to make money. Yet there is so much more money to be made by denouncing Museveni (or any government in Africa) because the international intellectual architecture is designed to reward such behavior.

At the height of my Museveni and African-leaders-bashing-career, I used to get five speaking engagements a month and be paid $15,000 for one speech plus business or first-class travel and five-star hotel accommodation. Just do a Google search! The more acidic a topic was, the greater was the interest of the Western media and audiences. “How tyranny and corruption are suffocating Africa” is, for example, a topic Western media, civil society and academia love. And they want an African to be the speaker, if only to avoid a white person coming across as racist if they made such criticism.

Over years of study and personal reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that African leaders, are not necessarily evil men or women. I think their actions are shaped more by circumstance than by their individual character, although we cannot ignore the role of character in the equation.

Find me any society in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin and North America with 70% of the population living on the land, with adult literacy levels at 40%, per capita income at $800 and per capita revenues at $150 and per capital spending at $200 and I will show you that its strategies of governance reflected more Marshal Mobutu’s style than Barack Obama’s.

I believe that Museveni, like many of his contemporaries in Africa, is genuinely committed to transforming Uganda, just like Besigye and Bobi Wine are genuinely committed to liberating it. For Museveni to achieve his goal, he needs power – he cannot transform Uganda when he has been overthrown (and therefore in jail or exile) or been defeated in an election (and therefore in Rwakitura grazing cows). However, retaining power involves navigating a treacherous terrain of coup plots, internal intrigues, making compromises and giving concessions; especially in an ethnically diverse society, that often undermine the pace at which leaders can realise their goals.

I have read autobiographies of Western leaders – Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Obama, etc. and all I find is the huge gulf between their dreams and aspirations while out of power and the constraints imposed upon them by trying to keep power. Even keeping their own position as leading pillars of the opposition is already imposing on Besigye and Bobi Wine such constraints that they have lost their own identity.

Neither Besigye nor Bobi Wine is a radical extremist by character. But to keep their base happy they have to act as radical extremists; using language uncharacteristic of them. They are strategic radical extremists.

I am not willing to purchase “credibility” by mutilating myself. Besigye and/or Bobi Wine can afford to because the price of self-mutilation is the presidency. So, to the many people that write to me or about me almost demanding that I become a spokesperson of their grievances, with the hidden blackmail that I have changed, and therefore not what they knew, here is my message: I do not want to be anyone else’s version of Andrew Mwenda. I want to be Andrew Mwenda’s version of Andrew Mwenda.

****

amwenda@independent.co.ug

 

13 comments

  1. Old man of the clan indeed 👌

  2. Old man of the clan indeed

  3. The one and only, Andrew Mwenda. Telling it like it is yet again.

    I appreciate how he consistently demonstrates patience in his thoughtful appeals to the bitter, short-sighted extremists and radicals to take a more mature, collaborative and inclusive approach so as to develop a more meaningful and accommodating political landscape for the sake of all Ugandans who want a better country for themselves and future generations… deeply ​patriotic.

    “I do not want to be anyone else’s version of Andrew Mwenda. I want to be Andrew Mwenda’s version of Andrew Mwenda.”

    Wama, you keep doing what you’re good at doing and just ignore the haters.

  4. I admire your intellectual prowess Mwenda.

  5. The failure of African leadership is in a strange way mirrored in the fall and failure of our chroniclers.I here at the sunset of his career ,the famous China Achebe advocated for writing in his mother tongue, the icon James Ngugj published some of his later works in Gikuyu. Here at home our firebrand chroniclers rose and quietly faded as they joined the gravy train. Anybody recalls Cheye of the Uganda confidential, Onapito.of the Crusader Frank Katusime, Robert kabushenga ,Tamale mirundi these and many others have faded as leading social critics
    And as if by design our president keeps in his daily speechesrefer in to the sayings in Runyankore. You can clearly discern someone who slowly is retreating into a very narrow tribal social African niche.
    And this article clearly shows you are retreating from some invisible interests that you either failed or shortchanged . signals of the end of the road.
    Thank you

  6. You’re only second mightiest to Shakespeare.

  7. Mwenda’s version of Mwenda is a selfish individual serving his own interests …

    • Absolutely… remember him wearing the Muhoozi t-shirt a few weeks ago? I am not convinced that Mwenda is an impartial commentator on Uganda and the dictatorship of Museveni. .. and quite frankly Mwenda, my plea for you has never and will never be for you to support any of my views. I only want you to admit that you an M7 sycophant; hoping that your praise singing will win you favors.

  8. This is the trouble with African public intellectuals who are in bed with bad leaders and governments. Any intelligent person who reads Andrew’s articles on Museveni can see that he’s defending Museveni in his own interest. Museveni has been in power for almost 40 years, and yet his so-called achievements are so insignificant that they are not worth talking about. I’m sure there is nothing significant he will achieve even if he rules UG until he dies. In countries like Singapore and Libya there were leaders like him, who ruled for a very long time. But such leaders greatly transformed their countries. Museveni has not done that, so he must go. After all, his time was up some decades ago.

    As an East African, I am highly concerned about the dire socio-economic state in UG, a country which, since 1986, has been ruled by someone whom Andrew is defending. FYI, my Ugandan friends who live here in Dar es Salaam say that they’re envious of Kenyans and us because our countries are far ahead of UG.

  9. “Over years of study and personal reflection, I have arrived at the conclusion that African leaders, are not necessarily evil men or women.”

    Go tell that to families of disappeared, murdered, tortured and abused Ugandans, If you had lost a relative or friend to this murderous regime you woul dbe singing a different tune. You had my support Andrew until I read that line ….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *